New Zealand’s 100-plus contingent of military training specialists plus support personnel have barely arrived in Iraq. Yet the folly of this military (mis)adventure is already rapidly becoming apparent.
Last week’s fall of the city of Ramadi after Iraqi forces capitulated to Islamic State fighters – despite heavily outnumbering their enemy – has shifted the front-line in this sectarian struggle worryingly close to Taji – the huge military camp within which the New Zealanders are based alongside Australian counterparts.
Unless the Isis (Islamic State) advance is halted the New Zealand Government is going to be faced with a major dilemma at some point in the not-too-distant future: pull the training team out of Iraq and lose face – plus earn black marks from the Americans and the Australians – or stick it out for the sake of good form and loyalty to allies and gamble on things not deteriorating with the risks this brings – including the possibility of casualties.
National’s predicament was neatly summed up by New Zealand First MP and former Army officer Ron Mark in an entry on his Facebook page last Friday.
‘Latest update from the US on Isis. Taji is only 91km from Ramadi. The same distance I drive from Carterton to Wellington to attend Parliament. Isis could be in artillery range of our troops in 30 minutes’. He added a question for Mr Key: ‘What’s our plan John?’
Even more chilling were the remarks made by no lesser figure than the American Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter. He said the Ramadi rout showed the Iraqi forces lacked the will to fight against Isis.